The sixth annual Young Professionals Leadership Summit (YPLS) was held in Houston with the AAPG Mid-Year Business Meetings in October.
Nine attendees participated in the three-day event intended to give Young Professionals (YPs) a greater understanding of AAPG, the opportunity to discuss issues currently facing YPs within the Association, and the chance to network with the current leadership.
YPLS participants were joined by members of the Executive and Advisory committees as well as from AAPG Sections and Regions leadership, who provided constructive feedback and valuable insights on several key issues.
They covered a range of topics, including AAPG’s value proposition, the effects of the current downturn on YPs and the future state of AAPG.
Why Are They Leaving?
One major challenge is that many YPs do not perceive the value in AAPG because they can receive many of the products and services AAPG offers from other sources.
Additionally, YPs in attendance expressed frustration that, while this and similar issues have been raised many times, the Association has yet to address the problem to their satisfaction, which directly affects the Association’s membership: numbers are decreasing and the YPs are a large demographic within this decreasing population.
Young Professionals are leaving the Association in two major ways:
♦ The first and more significant loss in terms of numbers occurs during the student-to-YP transition. Approximately 80 percent of student members do not renew their membership after graduation. This issue has been recognized for several years, yet it continues despite several efforts, such as the Student-YP Bridge.
The reasons for the small retention of student members as they progress to YPs are varied. Some do not continue in the geologic sciences professionally. Some rely heavily on their company and other sources for training and development, while others have not recognized the powerful network that one can develop as an AAPG member.
A significant issue seen in the Regions, which was discussed at the YPLS, is that while AAPG has a robust and well-supported infrastructure for student members, it is extremely lacking for YPs.
As a result, YPs in many regions rely on local societies or their companies to provide training, career development and other resources.
♦ The second way YPs are leaving the Association is after progressing from student to YP. While numerically much smaller than the loss of members during the student to YP transition, this loss is much more alarming. This group feels that AAPG does not provide the resources and services that they need as early-career geoscientists.
More striking is that YPs who have been active in the Association as members and volunteers have expressed frustration that AAPG has not addressed the needs of this group nor made appropriate changes in a timely manner. The result is increasing apathy about the organization and decreased or no participation and are in danger of leaving the Association.
This loss needs to be prevented because the percentage of YP members who are active and engaged as volunteers is already small, yet these members are supposed to be the future leaders of AAPG. While some feel that this group needs to be patient as change occurs slowly, the danger is that when this change finally does occur, this group already will have left the Association for other alternatives.
These two issues – retaining and increasing membership, and the perceived lack of value in AAPG – were discussed at length during the first portion of the YPLS.
The implications are that AAPG is in danger of becoming irrelevant in the short term and nonexistent in the long term.
A Future Without YPs?
The most significant YPLS discussion centered on the newly formed YP Special Interest Group (SIG) and how it can be used as a vehicle to address the membership problem highlighted above.
Four major focus areas were identified in which the SIG could offer value to both YPs and the Association:
- Technical excellence.
- Membership recruitment and retention.
- Career development.
- External partnerships.
YPLS attendees proposed a number of methods within each focus area to address the current gaps identified during the Summit’s issue-raising discussions.
Within the technical excellence focus area, there is a proposal for a suite of shorter half to full-day technical conferences, panels and workshops. Several participants have also started conceptualizing a YP magazine as a platform to showcase YP technical work.
A formal mentor program was proposed under the membership recruitment and retention focus area. This program could provide significant value, given the coming “Great Crew Change.” Many senior geoscientists will be retiring in the coming years, which will create major knowledge gaps across the industry within companies both small and large.
While YPs may lose a large number of mentors within their own company, AAPG has the opportunity to fill this gap with a pool of mentors, both working and retired, with which no single company could compete.
The YPs also realize that we are not the only game in town. Stronger relationships with our YP counterparts within other organizations such as YPE, SEG, SPWLA and SPE will be necessary in order to attract members and ensure that YPs are at the forefront of improving AAPG for all its members.
Several of the solutions proposed at the YPLS already exist in some manner within the Association. However, these may not be well known or advertised, or are not fit for purpose.
The YPs intend to leverage pre-existing products and services by either incorporating or modifying these into the offerings of the YP SIG as well as partnering with other groups within the Association who are also working on similar programs. These include the Visiting Geoscientist Program, Student Chapters, Career Services and the Division of Professional Affairs.
At the conclusion of the YPLS, the participants felt energized and walked away with a clear set of actions for a large number of the proposed programs in each of the four focus areas. Despite identifying a significant problem, the attendees have offered innovative solutions to address the problem.
The YPs want the Association to thrive well past its 100th anniversary and are looking forward to making a lasting impact with the YP SIG.